Rumors have been circulating for a couple of years of a movie on the life of hero of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint L’Ouverture to be directed by Danny Glover. The press has focused on Glover’s difficulties in securing funds to finance the movie, but now an investor has surfaced to make the filming possible—none other than Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Glover, in interviews to the press, has underscored his struggles to secure financing, saying that the has “slaved to raise funds for the movie because financiers complained there were no white heroes. “ During a visit to Paris last month for a seminar on film, he told AFP that “Producers said ‘It’s a nice project, a great project… where are the white heroes?'” He added, “I couldn’t get the money here, I couldn’t get the money in Britain. I went to everybody. You wouldn’t believe the number of producers based in Europe, and in the States, that I went to. The first question you get, is ‘Is it a black film?’ All of them agree, it’s not going to do good in Europe, it’s not going to do good in Japan. Somebody has to prove that to be a lie!”, he said. “Maybe I’ll have the chance to prove it.”
“Toussaint,” Glover’s first project as film director, is to start shooting next year in Venezuela, starring Don Cheadle, Mos Def, Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett, after Glover raised 18 of the 30 million dollars needed from a Venezuelan cultural body set up in 2006 by his friend President Hugo Chavez to counter what he termed “the Hollywood film dictatorship.” The project will film in Venezuela as part of the agreement but also because the degree of environmental degradation in Haiti since the Revolution has been such as to make it impossible to recreate the natural environment in which the Revolution was fought.
The funding has been met with raised eyebrows in the United States and anger from Venezuelan filmmakers. In an open letter, the National Association of Film Makers and the Venezuelan Chamber of Film Producers blasted the investment, saying that “it is Mr. Glover who should be bringing dollars to Venezuela.” The link between Glover and Chávez goes back to 1998, when Glover, a longtime activist, declared his support for Chávez’s political revolution.
Although this will be his first directorial effort, Glover (an admirer of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene), has helped produce African films, including the recently-acclaimed arthouse movie “Bamako” by Abderrahmane Sissako. “The first African films that I saw were films that portrayed Africans as savages, ignorant and uncivilized, and I wanted to know something else,” he told the AFP. “I was very fortunate, I had the chance to read writers like Mariama Bâ, Aimé Césaire … and Léopold Senghor. I read him when I was 20.”
“When I saw Sidney Poitier on screen, I was probably 10 or 11,” he added. “That was a different image, an image I had never seen before, on screen. The African-Americans I saw, they danced, they were buffoons, that was the image. So Sidney brought another image.” History, Glover said, had enabled him to play a wide range of roles because of the changes taking place in society. “I think cinema has played a great role in our re-imagining ourselves.”
Photo: Getty Images [Venezuela President Hugo Chavez (R) and US actor/activist Danny Glover (L) wave to the crowd while attending the CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program inauguration ceremony at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church 21 September 2006 in the Harlem locality of New York. Chavez, in Harlem to announce the expansion of a programme to send cheap Venezuelan oil to poor families in New York, launched a new personal attack against President George W. Bush, calling the US leader an “alcoholic” and a “sick man.”]